E~motions of Change = Energy in Motion

When going through the motions is not taking you anywhere

Posted Jun 03, 2011

In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing. --- Theodore Roosevelt

Most of us may not even have thought about this, but the roots for motion and emotion are virtually identical. Movere, from the Latin, means to move. Exmovere or emovere means to move out, hence to excite. So taking action stirs something up, moves something inside of us.

Doing nothing accomplishes nothing. If you're looking to change, that's not the way to go. And just going through the motions accomplishes something but... To really experience change to the fullest extent, you need to allow yourself to move out and through it, meaning you have to experience the emotions.

To make this easier for you, let's break the process of movement through change into sequential, recognizable, and fairly predictable stages: loss, uncertainty, discomfort, insight, understanding, and integration. Each of these stages carries specific emotions which can run the gamut from anticipation and excitement to fear and dread, largely determined by the individual's belief system and expectation.

Take a moment now and think about a major change in your life. Even when a change has long been anticipated and planned, a sense of giving something up or letting something go may feel like a loss. Without the familiar and habitual to rely upon, you may feel somewhat cut off and not in as much command as you had once been. Since loss figures into most of our lives in a big way and since many of us will go through many losses during our lifetime, we'll spend a little more time with it in a minute.

The uncertainty generated by the process through transition may leave you doubting yourself. Questions may arise as to whether it's better to make the change, or to stay with what you already know. A disconnection from who you once were may leave you feeling indecisive and skeptical. Uncertainty may lead to confusion, and even disbelief about what is real and what is true.

Discomfort can manifest as distress, worry, uneasiness, and anxiety. The critical zone, between discomfort and insight, is the place of decision about what is to ultimately happen. You're either going to move on to the next stage and discover new possibilities, opportunities, and insights, or retreat in fear back to the old situation.

With insight, there is a breakthrough; something is revealed that offers direction. This is very encouraging, for what had once felt strange and unfamiliar is beginning to take on a recognizable form.

This understanding about what the change has brought you eventually leads to integration. At this final stage, you're able to incorporate what you've learned, including the new capacities and strategies that you can call upon in the future.

Having a sense of what to expect along the way, even in general terms, and having a name to call it, may be just good enough to keep you moving in the right direction. In fact, the decision to move on through insight and integration restores control, bringing with it a feeling of hope in a new beginning.

Just a word about change when it is unexpected and imminent: When you know change is coming, you have time to prepare yourself. Even then, it's often frightening and provocative. With sudden changes, such as those happening through traumatic or catastrophic event, you are at the mercy of the event and the immediate necessary steps that must be taken. You may not be able to process what's happening to you until well after the event/situation has stabilized. Eventually, though, it's important to make the effort to understand the change, your transition through it, and the meaning it holds for your life moving forward.

 The Loss Timeline

So let's go back to loss for a moment and to hopefully, get some clarity around it. In our culture we're conditioned to have and to achieve, whether this is expressed by the accumulation of material wealth or through personal accomplishments. There's nothing inherently wrong with wanting and achieving. That is, until we start spending an inordinate amount of time worried and anxious about how to safeguard what we have. (Just like the commercial about the dog protecting his most prized possession, his bone---worry, worry, worry.)

And when our self-esteem and personal status/identity is measured largely by what we have and achieve, you can understand how the loss of anything important to us (especially when that something is seen as an essential part of self) can carry substantial consequences.

Loss can mean anything-a death, a finished relationship, a divorce, an illness, a physical move, loss of a job or home, or a change in status or identity (even when it's a good change).

Here's a good visual, a unique way to "see" loss. Construct a chart of events/happenings that signify loss to you. Choose any time frame you like; for example, dividing the timeline into decades, or quarters. List the losses, rating them by depth and intensity, either using words (mild, moderate, severe, extreme), or dots (1 to 5). In columns next to each event/happening note your emotions, then your feelings (how these emotions manifested themselves by the way you felt), then your behavior.

            Now answer these questions:

  • How long did it take you to process each event?
  • Did you successfully process each loss, meaning did you find a satisfactory solution or resolution?
  • If not, how did that loss carry over into your life?
  • What patterns are emerging about the way you deal with loss?
  • What beliefs do you hold about loss? Are these carry-overs from your earliest experiences with loss? If so, are these beliefs as applicable today as they were long ago?
  • Are you able to discover something new about yourself through this exploration into past loss? 


Answering these questions will hopefully give you a better understanding of your relationship to loss. The answers may provide important clues to help you understand why resistance to change may be operative in your life.